sexual intimacy

#metoo Discovery on a Bike Ride

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Can You See the Light at the End of the Tunnel?

That question took on new meaning for me last week. I was up in the mountains of Montana on the Hiawatha Bike Trail. The views were spectacular. The weather conditions, perfect.  I’d been on the trail before, a few years ago, so I gave hardly a thought to the preparations, plus, I was going with a large and well-equipped group.

But, there were several things I had not taken into consideration.

My helmet didn’t fit well. I had not gotten used to the gears on this rental bike. I’d experienced a broken ankle and 5 months of not walking since my last bike trip here.

Why do I bring this up and how does it fit into a ‘sex and intimacy’ themed coaching? Stay with me to find out.

The first of the 9 tunnels, on the 15-mile trail, was 1.6 miles long. Pretty impressive. The idea of it certainly charged me up. (I’ve been known to do a few challenging things in my career, like direct a ropes course 40 feet in the air, in both KY and CO.) But for the most part, I was motivated by the opportunity of a change of pace and scenery to gain a fresh perspective on what God was speaking to my heart.

Shortly into the tunnel, things were going okay. I was with a small group of riders. I could hear their cheerful voices and see the overshot light of their headlamps. I acclimated to the darkness. It felt cool with the drips of condensation falling on my arms, and a bit thrilling to ride into the ‘unknown’.

But minutes later something different happened.

The group pulled ahead of me. I realized my own headlamp was not pointed directly in front. My vision became obstructed by the dimness. Then, I noticed the road not only had potholes in the gravel but also, it wasn’t flat. The center was a bit mounded. It sloped down on both sides to an edge with an 18” concrete drop off, to collect the dripping water and rain flow if it occurred.

Are you getting the picture of where I might be going with this now?

As I rode on, the nagging thoughts about my limited vision, uneven pedaling (due to the poorly adjusted gears), and realization of no place to pull over to realign, finally got to me. I began to lose my balance, drift down the sloping side, then overcorrect with the handlebars, which made everything worse. I picked up speed, zigzagged towards the side and thought, “Oh, my gosh! I’m gonna crash right here in the worst possible place for me AND everybody else behind me still riding this way.”  This went on for a short eternity. Back and forth, jiggling and bumping over the gravel, in the dimness.  At the last possible second, I put my foot down and caught myself before skidding into the concrete drop off.  I was relieved to not crash, but I was still in the tunnel, still in the darkness, and now my adrenaline was soaring. I felt even more encumbered.

How on earth was I gonna make it all the way through?

My plan of action was to slow down and just do what I could do. Thankfully, the next small group of riders came up and one of the guys went in front of me and shone their light. Whew! There was another wave of relief, but I still could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, figuratively or literally.

I began to pray silently and try to relax.

I knew my tension was not making anything any easier. And, I kept pedaling. As much as I wanted it all to stop immediately, as much as I was slightly embarrassed and still slightly afraid, I had to keep on going. In my head, the tunnel had to end at some point, if I could just keep going.

And then it happened.

Way in the distance, the light began to appear. I was instantly encouraged. Truly, I could see the tiniest bit of daylight peeking through. I couldn’t take my eyes off the dimly lit gravel path in front of me, but I was aware the light was there. It was such an encouragement.

What followed next though, caught me by surprise the most.

As the light grew, and the outline of other riders began to be more noticeable I thought it would all be over ASAP. With every rotation of the pedal, I thought surely we are there now, but it wasn’t so at all. One of the riders nearby called out, “Halfway mark!” and my heart sank. I was not out of the dark yet. Even though I could see the light, even though I had people around me, and even though I knew daylight and safety awaited me, I still had more work to do… mostly in my head, but also compelling my body forward, to ride that final stretch.  

And, so I did.

I came out the other side. Took some pictures, got a drink of water, adjusted my helmet and my gears and began the rest of the ride, enjoying the stunning evergreen vistas and waterfalls.

But there’s one more part to my story, which will explain the whole reason I share this experience.

After dinner that night, we met with friends to recap the day. Everyone was telling their best stories and the mood was light. I didn’t want to be a downer for the scene, but I did want to lightly reflect on my thoughts. I described that first tunnel (I had to ride through 8 more, but none of the subsequent tunnels were as long or precarious). I spoke of my surprise about traversing the mounded gravel road, in the dark with poorly adjusted gears and helmet, and how it had been more of a challenge than I wanted or expected.

And here’s where the beautiful ‘ah-ha’ moment took place.

My friend, who had also been on the trail with me, said, “I didn’t know you were experiencing that, too. I thought it was just me.”  And right then and there, each one of us was validated and supported. Our thoughts and feelings were honored and affirmed. She knew she wasn’t the only one.

This was the best kind of #metoo.

Here’s my point- the paths we take in life are sometimes not what we wanted or expected. Especially in regards to sex and intimacy, there can be slippery slopes, and long patches of darkness, plus the feeling of not being able to do anything but KEEP ON GOING. And though we know in our head that it’s just a season, there will be light at the end somehow, still,

...we have to keep on going.

So, for any woman who reads this, you don’t have to stay in that scary and uncertain place of darkness, sexually.

~If you’ve experienced belittling, manipulation, or distorted views about intimacy (even through the church) this is your light at the end of the tunnel.  

~If you’ve never been comfortable sharing what’s going on in your marriage, even though you know it’s just not right, this is your light at the end of the tunnel.

~If you’ve had sexual abuse or trauma in your past and it feels like you just can’t get over it, but you want to, this is your light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s my story, too.

God restored my heart and brought me to a place of happy and healthy relational intimacy. HE can do that for you, as well. I can ‘ride’ with you, shine the light, and help you through to a safe place to receive His acceptance, to love yourself with His love, and to create a future, full of confidence to be YOU.

Wow! Just how much would that impact your intimacy in your relationship?!!  

If this is you, and I know it’s many of you, let’s talk. You never have to feel trapped, in the dark, and unable to make the realignment and adjustments you want and need.  Email me and we’ll explore just how I can help you. hello@marywhitmanortiz.com

I dedicate my harrowing tale to you and declare a NEW trail is in your future.

What is "Step 1" to Create Emotional Intimacy?

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“I just want him to know me and do things that are meaningful to me.”

Seems simple enough, right?! But actually, that is a very high level of empathy and takes a lot of learning (and desire) to get there. What do I mean?

1. Cognitive Empathy is the first level.

It’s the ability to understand another person’s perspective AND to stop telling them how they should do it ‘your’ way.

That’s HUGE!

When we remember our opinion is only ONE opinion and other opinions have EQUAL value, it fuels connection, which fuels intimacy, which makes it ‘safe’ to be vulnerable, which creates the right tone for sexual intimacy in marriage to be the blessing God designed it to be.

2. Emotional Empathy, at the next level, allows you to ‘feel’ what another person feels.

This is NOT logical. There is a tremendous amount of work to get to this place. Identifying your own feelings is ONLY the result of very intentional observation and assessment. Identifying what someone else is feeling and CHOOSING to feel that with them, WOW!! This is such an act of love.

This empathy process is completely FOREIGN to so many people. Maybe even your husband.

3. Empathetic Concern is the high level that will actually sense what another person needs from you… and will CHOOSE to give that.

Can’t you see God’s love at work?! This is what dying to self is really supposed to look like. It says, “I honor me because God made me in His image. And I honor others because they are also made in His image.”

If you want your guy to just know what you want and give it to you without even being asked, well, you are expecting a lot from him. Are you doing the same in return?

The good news is… Empathy can be learned.

Empathy will make EVERY relationship better. Empathy gets easier the more you practice it.

The first step to empathy is to understand another person’s perspective. It starts with questions like this, “Would you explain that to me again so I can better understand you?”

Remember, the Golden Rule is to treat others as you would like to be treated, but the Platinum Rule is a bit different. It says to treat others like they want to be treated.

Wishing you happy trails down the beautiful, yet winding path towards Empathy.